The ACLJ’s pro-life legal, policy, and government affairs teams continues to work with state legislatures around the country to craft common-sense pro-life legislation.
In the last week, I was privileged to testify in the Maryland state capitol as a witness defending the constitutionality of bills banning late-term abortions and banning dismemberment abortions. The Maryland legislature is currently considering bills that confront some of these ghoulish abortion procedures, which are currently legal in the state.
Two bills in the Maryland House of Delegates
The first hearings took place in the Maryland House of Delegates, House Committee on Health and Government Operations, on March 10. Two bills were before the committee:
You can click here to access a full video of the hearings (starting at 0:52:15 and ending at 1:51:30). Joining me on the panels of witnesses were the lead sponsors of the bills, Del. Barrie Ciliberti (Pain-Capable) and Del. William Wivell (Dismemberment), plus representatives of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), Maryland Right to Life (MRTL), Silent No More Awareness, Students for Life of America (SFLA), Gabriel Network, a minister from Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, and a former Planned Parenthood nurse. Opposing both bills were representatives of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the ACLU.
On the Pain-Capable bill, I testified that the bill includes important recordkeeping and reporting requirements for all abortions, which would provide valuable health data. Everyone, regardless of their position on abortion, should support those provisions as public health measures.
Regarding the prohibition on late-term abortions, I pointed out that babies have been documented as surviving at 20 weeks post-fertilization (22 weeks LMP), so the Pain-Capable bill aims at protecting "viable" unborn babies – exactly those babies the Supreme Court said could be protected from abortions.
Moreover, I added, the Pain-Capable bill can also be defended as an anti-torture bill, since it protects babies that are sufficiently developed to feel the agonizing pain of being killed. Leslie Dean of Silent No More confirmed the anti-torture concern with a harrowing account of a woman who had a late-term abortion.
On the Dismemberment bill, I noted that the Supreme Court has already ruled, in the federal Partial Birth Abortion case of Gonzales v. Carhart, that the government can outlaw horrific methods of abortion that devalue human life and degrade the medical profession.
The horror of the dismemberment abortion method was illustrated, in a somewhat muted fashion, by an animated depiction of such abortions in a video shown to the House committee earlier in the hearing.
At the end of the hearing on this bill, a delegate had a poignant exchange with the bill's opponents (Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and ACLU). He asked if they saw the video and what they thought of it. The Planned Parenthood representative responded that they based their opinions on "medical research" and said that there was research on both sides of the question whether the unborn child feels pain. The delegate pressed further, asking the ACLU representative if she thought the dismemberment procedure was inhumane. She tried to sidestep the question, but when the delegate persisted, she simply said, "No." (Her stark answer has already garnered media attention.)
One bill in the Maryland Senate
I was back in Annapolis on March 15 for a hearing in the Maryland Senate Finance Committee on SB 841, the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act of 2017. You can click here to view the complete video of this hearing (starting at 3:42:22 and ending at 4:11:31). Joining me this time were the bill's lead sponsor, Senator Justin Ready, as well as representatives from AAPLOG, NRLC, MRTL, SFLA, and a woman testifying powerfully on behalf of another woman who had a dismemberment abortion.
My testimony again focused on the constitutionality of a bill outlawing the dismemberment technique for abortion. One of the Senators later had an exchange with me about several lower court rulings that so far have suspended enforcement of similar dismemberment abortion laws. I pointed out that, even when the initial decisions of the courts are hostile to an abortion law, this does not mean the law is invariably doomed. As I mentioned, the efforts to ban partial birth abortion met with heavy resistance in the courts and multiple unfavorable rulings before the Supreme Court ultimately upheld the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban.
Here at the ACLJ, we do not just litigate cases. We also provide counsel and assistance and, as with these Maryland hearings, provide expert legislative testimony on issues like the sanctity of human life. I am grateful to be a part of that effort. And we will continue fighting to defend pro-life laws.
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